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California to Become Abortion Sanctuary If SCOTUS Upends “Roe” Protections

“We’ll be a sanctuary” for abortion for the rest of the country, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Participants hold signs during the Women's March "Hold The Line For Abortion Justice" at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Lawmakers and abortion providers in California are seeking to make the state a “sanctuary” for all Americans seeking abortion services, amid the disturbing possibility that abortion rights could be completely dismantled next year.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade from state prosecutors in Mississippi. Analyses of conservative justices’ questions and statements during oral arguments suggested that they were ready to diminish — or overturn completely — protections conferred in Roe, the 1973 decision that recognized abortion rights throughout the country.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) created the California Future of Abortion Council (FAB Council), a group of organizations and abortion service providers in the state. On Wednesday, the council released a report listing 45 recommendations to ensure that anyone who wants an abortion can get one, either in or out of California.

If Roe is undone, the FAB council recommended that lawmakers consider the possibility of paying for travel and lodging arrangements for patients traveling to California to get an abortion.

Newsom indicated a desire to make California hospitable to anyone seeking the medical procedure.

“We’ll be a sanctuary. We are looking at ways to support that inevitability and looking at ways to expand our protections,” he said, adding that some of the recommendations from the council would be incorporated in his proposed budget in January.

California already pays for abortion services for individuals in the state who qualify for Medicaid, and requires private insurance companies to provide abortion services. But the recommendation to pay for travel expenses incurred by people traveling to California to get an abortion is entirely new.

Other state lawmakers applauded the recommendations from the FAB Council.

“When I ran clinic services for a women’s health center, I saw countless individuals who needed information, services, and support,” said State Rep. Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego. “Working with the FAB Council, my colleagues and I will ensure Californians and people from every state can get the reproductive health services they need in a safe and timely way – and that all our rights remain enshrined in law.”

The FAB council report noted that if the protections recognized in Roe are upended in the near future, more people would come to the state for abortion services. More than ever, abortion providers would face challenges “to meet the demand of people needing care,” the report said, adding that it’s imperative for lawmakers to prepare for that possibility now:

If our state’s abortion provider network is to provide timely care to California patients and absorb any significant portion of the increase in out-of-state patients projected should Roe be overturned, California must take steps now to ensure the growth of a network of clinicians trained in abortion and sexual and reproductive health care.

The FAB council made a number of additional recommendations for making abortion more accessible in California. The council called for increasing funding for abortion providers, including for transportation and infrastructure; reducing costs for abortions; and improving reimbursement wait times for individuals who initially have to pay out of pocket for the procedure.

The report also called for investing in the hiring of a more “diverse California abortion provider workforce and an increase in training opportunities for BIPOC and others historically excluded from health care professions,” as well backing education programs that will teach and discuss the topic of abortion in schools.

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